Chemical Exposure During Pregnancy

Lead

While lead poses problems for everyone, unborn babies and young children are at the greatest risk. Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of lead during pregnancy may potentially cause problems such as miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and, in some cases, developmental delays in infants. Well-documented research has also demonstrated that even small amounts of lead can affect your unborn baby's learning and behavioral development.

This dangerous substance often lurks in your drinking water. Find out if your home has lead pipes, lead solder on copper pipes, or brass faucets (all brass contains some lead), and follow up with your state health department, who can perform a test on your water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recommends running water for 30 seconds before use to reduce lead levels.

To keep potential health problems at bay, it's best to use cold water (which contains less lead than hot water) for cooking and drinking.

Unfortunately you could also be at risk for lead exposure if you live in a structure built before 1978. Most homes constructed earlier have lead-based paint in their interiors. If you believe your home may have a problem, stay away from areas with peeling paint, have someone vacuum up any paint chips or dust to avoid potential inhalation or ingestion, and employ a professional to scrape and repaint while you leave the premises. Sanding or scraping lead paint can contaminate the air with lead dust, which can be harmful to you and your unborn baby.

Other sources of lead may include crystal glassware and some imported or antique ceramics, so avoid frequent use of these items. If you suspect a problem, test the items with a lead kit you can purchase at your local hardware store. Though scented candles are pretty and smell good, it's a good idea not to use them -- some of their wicks may contain lead, which can be released into the air when burned.

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